Happy birthday to the trees!
Happy Tu B’Shvat, the birthday or festival of the trees!
I’ve always felt an odd affinity for trees. In eighth grade we each did an acrostic for “Graduate”, and R was for “reincarnated as:” I put, A Tree, without hesitation.
What a glorious creation a tree is! Many stand bare in winter, leaving the heavy lifting of oxygen creation to their evergreen members, storing up energy to provide the food, shelter, oxygen, and even heat and building materials, for man and beast. Ancient wisdom and modern science tell us that they can communicate with one another, perhaps through their root systems—another amazing creation—or their exhalations.
The poet Joyce Kilmer wrote that old poem we all learned in grade school, I think that I shall never see/ a poem lovely as a tree. As soon as I could think about poetry I complained. First, I despised the sing-song rhythm. And the use of the semi-sexual pressing to the earth’s “sweet flowing breast” along with his other sap-sticky metaphors, grossed me out. But most strongly, I rebelled against the mixing of the simile: you don’t “see” a poem, and you don’t read or hear a tree. But as I’ve gotten older, I kind of see his final point.
Humans have created amazing things: oboes, symphonies, poems, stories, equations, vaccines, bridges, skyscraping buildings, rockets, systems and rules for all occasions. But only Nature/the Devine/ the Eternal has created trees. We can replicate them, we can cross-breed them, we can engineer them, but we are not the creators of that life force that makes a tree.
So let’s celebrate the trees in the dead of winter, thank them for the vital life force they bring to the world, and await their return to full glory. Happy Tu B’Shvat!